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How Might A Government Shutdown Affect Travel?

Flickr user Nick Papakyriazis
With the House Republicans and virtually everyone else in government refusing to play nice, it appears the U.S. might be headed toward another costly shutdown. How might this affect the travel industry?

First, if you're planning to visit Yosemite or any other national park, start making other vacation plans. A government shutdown means all national parks, government-owned museums like the Smithsonian and other attractions will be closed. All employees considered non-essential –- which, if you've ever spent any time with a Park Ranger, you know that's a complete lie -– will be furloughed and not paid during any shutdown.

The Ultimate Breaking Bad Road Trip

Benjamin Goddard Photography
This post references events from the series finale of Breaking Bad. If you haven't yet seen the episode, don't read any further.

Man Steals Bus, Drives Around Airport Tarmac

Flickr user caribb
Perhaps wanting to relive one of the most climatic moments from the movie "Speed," a Texas man allegedly stole an airport bus and drove it around the tarmac this weekend.

Police say David Cooper Thurmond snuck onto the Easterwood Airport runway early Saturday morning, stole the 22-person passenger transport and drove it around for an undisclosed amount of time before he was confronted by airport staff. Homeland Security probably won't be relieved to know Thurmond was apparently able to enter the airport through an unlocked pedestrian gate on the south side of the general aviation terminal.

Homeless Man Turns in Bag of $40,000+, Prevents Massive TripFail

Flickr user Phossil
Talk about a Good Samaritan.

Although reportedly homeless and needing money, an unidentified Boston man turned over a backpack filled with more than $40,000 in cash and travelers checks this weekend. After finding the bag near the South Bay Mall, the man flagged down a passing police officer to give him the backpack.

A Chinese national had reported the bag, which also contained his passport and other identifying papers, missing earlier in the day at a Best Buy store and later claimed it from police. There's no word yet if the unnamed do-gooder was offered a reward.

It's a safe bet the man's trip was saved by this act of honesty and kindness. Has your vacation to a foreign country ever been saved with the help of a total stranger?

Rampant Airport Delays Lead to Violence in China

Flickr user gomattolson
Although the number of airline passengers has skyrocketed over the past decade, China's infrastructure has been unable to keep the pace. And as the number of delayed flights have risen, so too have the accounts of passenger brawls and acts of civil disobedience.

The problem has gotten so bad, the employees of at least one Hong Kong airline are learning kung fu as self defense.

Beijing Capital International is the worst airport for on-time departures, with an average delay of nearly 90 minutes. Another Chinese airport, Shanghai Pudong International, ranks fourth on that same list. Fewer than 30 percent of flights leaving Beijing airport are on time.

China plans to invest $230 billion to build 55 new airports in the coming decades, including a second in Beijing that will become the world's largest when completed. But that's little solace to the passengers who are constantly bumped from their flights now.

Ban the Burqa? Religious Freedom Battles Airport Security

Charles Roffey
Should Muslim women be allowed to wear a full-face veil through airport security? At least one prominent British politician believes the answer is no.

During a larger debate about the appropriateness of the burqa, U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg admitted that while he was uneasy about banning full-face veils throughout society, "it is perfectly reasonable for us to say the full veil is clearly not appropriate" going through airport security.

Airlines Can't Keep Up With Customers' Social Media Complaints

Flickr user Patcard
Days after the son of an irate passenger bought a promoted tweet to shame British Airways, a second European airline is feeling the sting of a social media barrage aimed at its alleged ineptitude.

Air Berlin flight 8109 took off on August 9 without a single piece of checked baggage for the 200 passengers on board. Making matters even worse, it couldn't locate any of the bags for weeks, causing a storm of Twitter complaints and a Facebook page devoted to the debacle.

That one incident would be bad enough, but according to Slate.com, Air Berlin also lost the musical instruments of two high-profile touring bands, one from Sweden and the other from Canada. The Toronto-based Metz vented their frustrations on Twitter, first to announce their gear was lost and again, two weeks later, to announce they'd finally recovered their instruments.

Scrolling down the airline's Twitter page, visitors are met with apology after apology by the airline for missing baggage. Compliments on great service are hard to find.

How much of an impact are the angry Facebook posts and tweets really having? It's obvious from the most recent complaints that Air Berlin hasn't fixed the problems. Despite Hasan Syed's tweet which received more than 25,000 impressions, British Airways has yet to respond publicly. Doctor Who and Torchwood fan favorite actor John Barrowman let his 217,000 followers know when he had an issue with a late departure and faulty seat on his Delta Airlines flight, but didn't provide a promised update of a potential resolution.

From personal experience, I can say angry tweets aimed at Delta Airlines for a disastrous overseas flight in June never received a response. (Although to be fair, they did respond later after my wife logged an official complaint. More than 30 days after the initial complaint, but hey, Delta is rarely on time for anything.)

Have you used social media to lodge a complaint against an airline? What's been the end result? Does social media shaming work or are old-fashioned complaint calls still the best way to vent your frustration?

Avoiding Scams And Thieves While Traveling Abroad

Flickr user Modenadude
My wife and I had just left the Musee D'Orsay when a young woman came running up to us clutching a ring.

The pretty brunette spoke in halting English, saying she saw it drop to the ground as we walked by. After a quick scan of our fingers, we told her we weren't missing any rings, but she placed the ring in my hand and insisted we take it for friendship. Before my heart could swell with the joy of international love and brotherhood, she then asked for money for a cup of coffee. At that point, I realized it was a scam and handed her back the ring, which she no doubt tried to foist onto another hapless tourist couple.

While our stay in Paris was overall a wonderful experience, criminals threatened to put a damper on our trip. Before our flight out of Charles de Gaulle Airport, we would be accosted by other scam artists several more times, and my wife was pick-pocketed on the Paris Metro. Luckily the hipster shorts I bought in a Parisian boutique were so tight, I could barely get my fingers into my pockets, let alone a common thief do the same.

Unfortunately, theft and scams are all too prevalent in most major metropolitan areas. Staff members at the Louvre actually went on strike for a day earlier this year, protesting the unsafe working conditions caused by thieves and scam artists. Bob Arno, co-author of Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Crime While Traveling, estimates about 70 percent of Barcelona tourists will be approached by a street criminal; of those incidents, about 33 percent result in the loss of valuables.

According to the US government, Paris, Barcelona, London, Rome, Amsterdam and Naples have the highest number of scam artists looking to take advantage of naïve or distracted tourists.

Air Nannies To Make Flights Bearable For Kids, Parents And The Travelers Around Them

Flickr user JPMatth
Parents -- and easily annoyed travelers -- know just how difficult flying with kids can be. One airline offers a free nanny service to help keep the little ones entertained and quiet, while a second is planning to roll out their program by the end of the year.

There's only one caveat: you've got to be flying to or from the Middle East to take advantage of the program.

United Arab Emirates' Etihad Airways plans to roll out the nanny program by the end of December, according to NBC's Today show. More than 300 crew members have gone through training at Norland College, a prestigious U.K. nanny training school, with 200 more slated to undergo training by the end of December.


Bahrain's Gulf Air offers a similar program, according to its website.

Does Your Credit Card Include Hidden Travel Perks?

Flickr user 410(K) 2013
Millions of travelers are holding discounts to thousands of museums, concerts and airline rewards in their pocket without realizing it.

Credit-card companies offer hundreds of perks that most holders never use. How good are some of these perks? It depends on the card.

The great
The American Express Platinum cardholders can receive unlimited access to several airport lounges, including those run by the Delta, US Airways and American. According to MSN Money, those memberships would cost well over $1,000 if purchased individually.

Airline credit cards carry perks beyond earned miles. Some airlines, including American and Delta, allow cardholders to check their bags for free.

The pretty good
Bank of America credit cards entitle users to one free general admission to select museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, on the first full weekend of every month. A great way to save an easy $10 or more, but not worth getting a card solely for that reason.

Many cards include a small amount of travel insurance when you purchase your trip, although it's likely only to accentuate the travel insurance you purchase. A much better perk is the free crash insurance for rental cars that comes standard with many cards.

The so-so
Citi's Easy Deals allows you to cash in earned points for travel perks, including slightly discounted gift cards for cruises, rental cards and hotels. The hotel and rental car deals featured on the site aren't much better than offers you can find on Travelocity or Expedia. You can also book tickets to popular attractions, but again, the discounts are virtually nil. Tickets to the Kennedy Space Center are $50 on its website, while Citi offers the same ticket for $48 and five of your earned points.

My wife had her iPhone stolen in the Paris Metro earlier this year. Had we used a Wells Fargo credit card, we may have been eligible for $600 replacement coverage. But, of course, there are caveats. First, we would have had to pay our monthly cellular bill with the card. Also, after the phone was stolen, we would have first had to file a claim against our homeowners insurance before Wells Fargo would have paid the difference.

Before making any travel plans, check your monthly credit card bill for any potential offers, visit your bank's website or call the toll-free number on the back of the card to find out what perks are available to you.

*This post was updated from its original version to remove reference to a credit card offered by Continental.

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